I'm currently looking for paid writing gigs, so if you might want anything written shoot me a message (craighats at hotmail dot com).
In case the contents of this blog don't make it obvious enough, I have something of an affinity for slightly "offbeat" titles, so if there's something out there that few others cover, there's a fair chance I'm at least somewhat up on it.
If there's any sort of (reasonable) inquiry you'd like me to address, please don't hesitate to be in touch.
Below are a handful of recaps and other links (oldest listed first by section), in case you're interested - asterisks mark promoted articles.
Well, well, well – it seemed like this day would never arrive, but here we are. As all of us bear witness to the conclusion of this ‘Magnet School curriculum, we’re ready to stop, for a little while at least, merely reading and talking about games: now is our time to flock back to the source, playing them, judging them for ourselves, experiencing them in a more meaningful way. Before going our separate ways, however, there remains one final lesson I feel obligated to share with everyone.
Up to this point, you’ve been exposed to some things I know about certain obscure portions of the gaming landscape, and hopefully learned a thing or two along the way; perhaps the most important insight to be gained, though, lies in but a brief look at what I DON’T know.
Not counting the fleeting name-drops and links sprinkled amidst the lessons, a total of twenty-four obscure puzzle games were covered here: a decent sampling, but hardly a drop in the bucket of what might have been included. Right off the bat, in the interests of breadth and focus I stuck with fairly “traditional” puzzlers throughout, which leaves the realms of “maze” puzzles, Sokoban-style (box-pushing) puzzles, word- and number-based puzzles, logic puzzles, and 3D puzzles, among others, all but completely unexplored.
Naturally, even within those areas I did research, there remain dozens upon dozens of noteworthy titles which I was tempted to reference but simply didn’t have room for. Behold, for instance, the fantasy-tinged Poitto, which involves cracking open jars to squish monsters against the ceiling, while the whimsical Kokontouzai eto Monogatari offers players plentiful opportunities to “cancel out” large chunks of their area at once. Then there are the shape-based Toryumon (start the video at around 4:30) and Vadims, which share similar central concepts, though the former vies for an energetic “martial arts” theme while the latter leans towards stoic Egyptian. Even more impossible to ignore is the bizarre Mausuke no Ojama the World from (who else) Data East, which is all about lining up kissing lips in diagonal rows; finally, there’s action-puzzler Nightmare in the Dark, a cousin of Snow Bros. with a decidedly darker atmosphere. These are but a few of the “leftovers” I laid hands on while preparing ‘Magnet School: give them a try if you get the chance, and you might end up pleasantly surprised.
Of course, this selection pales in comparison to the list of games that I KNOW about, but have yet to actually PLAY.
The most obvious candidates here are a number of prototypes which, unlike Ghostlop and precious few others, never got lucky enough to be dumped for emulation: Treasure of the Caribbean (by Face, the Money Puzzle Exchanger guys) looks particularly promising, though Mahou Juku has my interest piqued as well. A pair of unreleased ADK carts, Fun Fun Bros. and Mystic Wand, have some name recognition within the Neo-Geo community, as does fellow puzzle-platformer Bang Bang Busters, but only a handful of gamers have ever experienced them. In a similar bind is the tadpole-themed Otamajakushi, which appeared on a Japanese Saturn demo disc, but never again beyond that point.
Needless to say, semi-legendary games aren’t the only ones beyond my reach: I can’t pin down much of anything on Monkichichi no Fuwa Fuwa Puzzle and Puzzle Kurutto Stone, while this video offers few clues towards figuring out what’s going on in Mawaza. The PS1, in particular, is a veritable minefield of unknown puzzle games that I’ve yet to play: Tripuzz, unStack, and Hermie Hopperhead offshoot Tamago de Puzzle comprise but a fraction of them. One particular specimen that I regret allowing to slip through my fingers is Tsukette Pon – if you’ve ever used Fighter Maker or RPG Maker, this is basically the ochige equivalent, allowing you to build your own puzzle game. Unfortunately, since I don’t know enough Japanese to utilize the creation tools, any tantalizing possibilities on offer here remain elusive.
Students, bear in mind, these preceding paragraphs contain only titles I’ve at least heard of. Judging by how much I learned during preparation for this series, you can bet your bottom dollar that all of this is easily dwarfed by the number of things I don’t even know EXIST yet.
This, dear students, is the lesson which I pray has been impressed upon you above any other: the knowledge that there forever remains so much of value to experience, even within a single gaming genre, long after the masses have moved on. Whether you find yourself generally unsatisfied with the direction the industry has taken or are eager to indulge more fully in it, never, NEVER be completely content with what’s laid right out in front of you at arm’s length. Dig deeper, search farther, push the boundaries of what you thought “gaming” would ever turn out to be for you – no matter what, something is ALWAYS missing from your collection (literal or otherwise), and you’ll never know the worth of what you have unless you’re also intimate with that you lack. For all you know, The Game You Wish They’d Make may already be waiting, with your name on it: if ‘Magnet School has taught you anything at all, you will get out there and find it.
I’d like to conclude this graduation speech with a few overdue words of thanks: first and foremost, my deepest gratitude to any and all “students” who read through any portion of my lessons over these past few months. I very much hope you enjoyed them. Second, a tip of my hat to the army of websites and other sources which served as invaluable fonts of information during my research, especially the indispensable shmups.com forum, the veritable launching pad for much of this project. Finally, kudos to GaijinPunch of gamengai.com for offering some translation assistance: be sure to stop by his site and look around.
As your instructor, this is, at last, all I can think to say. Congratulations, graduates: school is out.
At this point, with your permission, I’d like to step “out of character” for a few moments: there are a couple more things I need to mention, and an announcement I need to make.
As I noted at the outset, ‘Magnet School was envisioned as something of an experiment. Basically, I hoped that presenting material about unusual games in a structured, pre-formatted fashion might be more appealing to readers than occasional and irregular “off-the-cuff” posts; also, though I’m not sure how much I succeeded, I attempted to tone down my infamously verbose written delivery in favor of a more to-the-point, “academic” style and a more user-friendly interface. Basically, I wanted to remove as many unnecessary barriers as possible between readers and what I wanted to tell them.
In retrospect, as much as I enjoyed studying, playing, and talking about these games along the way, the results of this experiment can only be interpreted, on my end, as disappointing. While a promising amount of community interest was on display when the series was first announced, its “participatory” audience (as in, readers who responded strongly enough to ask questions or offer comments, which I gauge as “success” with material of this sort) quickly bled out, to the point where their remaining number from week to week could be counted on one hand. This outcome strongly indicates that, when it comes to under-the-radar gaming, format is largely irrelevant: no matter how it’s presented, the core material will never attract more than very limited attention. This bone-simple state of affairs has presumably been taken for granted by most for a long time now, but yours truly (as is often the case) needed a good, solid boot to the head to finally wake up and accept the obvious. Truth be told, I’m still not 100 percent on board even after the fact.
That being said, at this point I plan to take a decisive step back from this blog: currently there are no plans for further ‘Magnet School curriculums, and moreover I will be (re-)suspending The Obscurer Tribune after Issue 60 is published.
To be clear, I am NOT leaving Destructoid or abandoning blogging altogether: I’ll still be stopping in here to read, comment, and occasionally post, but for the time being I will cease imposing any sort of “set schedule” upon myself in this area. The reasons I have for coming to this decision are as follows:
1) ‘Magnet School is the biggest and most involved writing project I’ve ever undertaken, and to state things plainly it took a lot out of me: even if the response from others had been more positive, I was already planning to announce at least a short break from blogging following its conclusion. In so many words, I’ve spent far too much time in front of a computer screen of late.
2) More importantly, I’ve finally gotten myself a bit of steady IRL work again: it’s only a part-time gig, but it took me so long to find that I can’t remotely afford to half-ass it. As a result, my free time is a ways more limited than it has been in awhile, and something has to give.
3) In favor of getting ‘Magnet School up and running, I’ve been repeatedly putting off a small handful of other projects: now that the former is done, whenever I do have a bit of leisure computer time I want to take the latter off the back burner and attempt to finish them without further distractions. If I ever do succeed in these endeavors I hope to eventually share the results with you. By the way, to anyone who has previously asked for my assistance with their own projects, I do still plan to fulfill my obligations: on that front nothing has changed.
Considering the modest size of my audience this announcement isn’t likely to concern very many DToiders, but I still owe it to regular readers to clarify this situation before taking my leave. Once more I thank all of you for being willing to share your time and thoughts with me: I hope that ‘Magnet School allows my current “phase” at this site to go out on a high note with you.